Starbucks New Rewards Program Punishes Thrifty Coffee Drinkers

As many of you have probably already heard, Starbucks announced on Monday that they will be making significant changes to their rewards program Starbucks Rewards in April. As a loyal Starbucks gold member, this comes as another blow to the recent points & miles devaluation trends we have seen across the travel industry as of late. These changes won’t impact all loyal Starbucks customers, but it certainly isn’t favorable for thrifty coffee drinkers like myself. Let’s cover the changes.


The Current My Starbucks Rewards Program 

As it stands today, Starbucks customers earn gold status when they earn 30 stars (points) in a calendar year. They earn 1 star per visit no matter the amount of money they spend. After earning gold status, they are rewarded with a voucher for a free item which can be redeemed for anything on their food or drink menu, every time they earn 12 stars. This is a valuable system for customers like myself, as I typically only drink black coffee or hot/iced tea from Starbucks. The average value of my transactions are typically between $2.50 and $2.75. This being said, I generally have to spend between $30 and $33 dollars (12 visits) before earning a voucher for a free menu item. Once I have this voucher I can redeem for one of the Starbucks lunch items which are generally between $5 and $6. This gives me anywhere from a 15% to 20% return on my earned stars from buying coffee and tea. A solid return on my purchases.


Starbucks Lunch Menu

Starbucks Lunch Menu


What is changing with Starbucks Rewards

Come April, Starbucks customers will start to earn 2 stars for every $1 spent at Starbucks. Additionally they will need to accrue 300 stars (spend $150 in a calendar year) to earn gold status as opposed to just visiting Starbucks 30 times. Also, free reward vouchers will be issued every time customers earn 125 stars or essentially spends $62.50. For a customer like myself who typically spends $30 – $33 to earn a reward, this significantly devalues the program as I will now need to spend twice as much to earn the same reward. However, if you’re a customer who loves the trendy foo-foo drinks Starbucks has to offer, you will more than likely benefit with the new revenue based program. Customers who average spending more than $5.21 per transaction will come out ahead as they will now need to spend less money to be rewarded more often.


Starbucks’ attempt at spinning this as a positive change for their customers.

Starbucks’ attempt at spinning this as a positive change for their customers.


Bottom Line

While I certainly understand why Starbucks is making this change, it has many of their most loyal customers in an uproar which is never positive for the brand. Will I stop drinking Starbucks coffee? Probably not, as their global presence is unmatched and there is something to be said about getting a consistent experience everywhere in the world. I will however be more likely to support smaller, local operations after the devaluation as long as the price is right.


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